God’s Joy…and Ours - Michael Van Dusen | Jan. 20, 2019 |
The passage from Isaiah 62:1-5, the first reading for January 20th, was written when the people of Israel had been released from the Babylonian captivity. On their return to Jerusalem, instead of the recalled—and perhaps exaggerated — beauty of the city, they found ruins. Instead of being welcomed by those who had been left behind when the Babylonians deported the leaders, they encountered bitter disputes with the people who had stayed behind. Their expectations were dashed and they felt forsaken.
Isaiah addresses this sense of gloom with a message of God’s love and joy in the people. The tone of the passage is exuberant, a complete contrast to the contemporary reality that they encountered on their return.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
To name someone indicates one’s authority over them, as a parent names a child or God names people and things, such as Abram being renamed Abraham. It is a sign of God’s adoption. This new name is given in the lines below
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, (My Delight is in Her is a transliteration of the name Beulah)
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
Isaiah does not explain why God has changed his mind so dramatically. Yet the lavish love is more consistent with the story of God than his anger.
Three motifs from this Isaiah passage will be picked up in John 2:1-11, the gospel for this day about the wedding feast at Cana:
Jesus’ change of mind, The wedding feast itself, and The extravagant generosity of God in Jesus working a miracle to convert water to a superabundance of wine.
Jesus initially indicated that he did not want to help with the issue of the lack of wine but Mary, his mother, ignored him and told the servants to do what he instructed. Jesus then performed his miracle.
The second motif is the wedding feast: as a young man marries a young woman. The situation is joyous and both Isaiah and John seem to relish telling the story of God taking an active part in the celebrations.
The third motif is God’s generosity. Isaiah expresses it as, You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. John talks about Jesus turning water into something like 500-700 litresof wine, a lot of wine for even a large wedding party!
When a parent names a new-born child (or even a new pet for that matter) what do they consider in the name? Hope for the child’s future? Character? Respect for someone who had previously born that name who might become a model? Something else?Do you think we should attach any significance to the fact that Jesus’ first miracle, according to John’s account, was in a happy, social setting? Does it suggest that Jesus enjoyed seeing people celebrate? Do you see his miracle as a wedding gift? As a blessing on the wedding? What do you imagine happened to the wine? (The Common Cup Company’s song “Cana Wine”, is one way of inhabiting this gospel story. The lead singer is Gordon Light, a retired Anglican bishop and the husband of Barbara Liotscos, one of St. Aidan’s previous priests. Gordon sang the song as part of a sermon he preached on this gospel several years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG0IekFDBNo